As the Philippine Azkals finalise their AFC Asian Cup preparations with a friendly match against Southeast Asian champions Vietnam on New Year’s Eve, let’s look how Sven-Goran Eriksson will possibly setup the team in the opening campaign.
The probable lineup: 4-4-2 [on paper]
The 11-man squad that could step onto the pitch above will be comprised of possibly the most experienced and promising bunch that shone in the previous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.
One of the only two exceptions that could get the nod to start is Luke Woodland who, unfortunately, had his recent AFF participation cut short within the early minutes of the opening fixture, due to a minor leg injury that required a few weeks of recovery that deemed him unavailable for the rest of the campaign.
Why the Buriram United defender would most likely make the Azkals Starting XI though is his youth [at 23-years-old] that would be essential as a right-back in order to negate the possible threats from pacy opposing wingers.
The other player absent in the previously concluded regional tournament was Javier Patino who suffered a calf injury during the buildup camp to the Suzuki Cup.
Patino’s presence would add another dimension to the Azkals frontline due to his attributes that are not just focused on goalscoring, but his ability to draw defences and open up opportunities, through his close-quarter passing and vision, to his strike partners up front.
The possible ‘actual’ formation
If the lineup on paper will be fielded in the actual AFC Asian Cup, the most possible formation of the players once on the pitch could resemble more of a 4-1-3-2.
Javier Patino and Phil Younghusband will be up front with the former as the main focus of the attack.
Patrick Reichelt will shadow the the two forwards as an auxiliary striker operating from the right wing while Manny Ott will pull the strings as the fulcrum of the offence being the main playmaker.
Stephan Schrock, meanwhile, will be the spark from the left side of the pitch with a license to roam within his domain as an initiator as well beside Manny Ott while young John-Patrick Strauss at 22-years-old will be the defensive anchor at the middle of the park.
On defence, Alvaro Silva and Carli De Murga will partner each other as centre-backs.
Luke Woodland will take the right-back position while Daisuke Sato will be on the left with the two providing support in marauding their respective flanks in attacking situations.
Michael Falkesgaard of Bangkok United will be the starting goalkeeper.
Formation Variation: 4-3-3
With the same lineup, depending on the situation, the lineup could transform into a formation that resembles a 4-3-3 with Strauss retaining a regressed defensive midfielder role while Reichelt taking a more advanced position as a forward.
Possible roles that the substitutes can take are below:
From the starters, Woodland and De Murga could have their roles interchanged depending on who will be subbed out.
Iain Ramsay will most likely be a left wing specialist whether as a starter [which is highly possible too] or as a super-sub who will provide the needed service from the left flank and into the box for the forwards to work with.
Adam Tull has the versatility to take defensive and midfield roles while Jovin Bedic, Curt Dizon, and Mike Ott could substitute for different attacking roles.
Meanwhile, James Younghusband could either be deployed as a midfielder or a forward given his size that can open up defences.
AC Horsens’ Kevin Ray Hansen and Kaya FC’s Nathanael Ace Villanueva will provide the option as backup goalkeepers.
In closing, this discussion is all just speculative and for fun in anticipation of the actual Azkals campaign.
But one thing that can be observed from this selection by head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and the rest of the coaching team is that the squad is a promising one that is capable of pulling off surprises, taking into consideration the availability and fitness of the players.
Here’s to hoping that the Azkals could come up with a commendable performance, and run of results in the biggest tournament of their lives.
Photo credit: The Azkals Instagram page